Martin Lewis, 47, has spent a considerable amount of time recently providing insight on furlough rules. As he detailed, a month or so ago few people had even heard of the word but now it has become a crucial lifeline.
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He started by providing a basic overview of how the scheme works: “Today for the first time employers can actually apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme that allows firms to furlough staff who don’t have or can’t work – the government then says the money should come within six days.
“The aim is to protect economic victims of coronavirus, and leave them ready to return straight to work, to kick start the economy once this is over.”
Large companies and organisations may have the necessary resources available to help weather this period, but as Martin detailed, smaller firms will likely struggle.
As he continued: “Yet for some employees and small employers, furloughing can seem complex.
“This in itself may be stopping some from agreeing to implement this important financial lifetime. “While it is an employer’s choice whether to furlough, my hope is my briefing will give enough information to hopefully give employers confidence to furlough staff (and former staff) when appropriate.”
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Martin highlighted that information on all things coronavirus can be found on the government’s website.
Indeed, a brand new page has been created on the government’s website which is dedicated entirely to the coronavirus job retention scheme (albeit, this new page is purely for guiding employers).
Information can also be sought from other public bodies such as the Money Advice Service or Citizens Advice.
However, the Money Savings Expert revealed a number of guiding points for both employees and their employers.
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When questioned on eligibility for the scheme, Martin highlighted the recent problems with the March deadline: “When the furlough scheme was first announced it only applied to those on their employers payroll on 28 Feb.
“That left those who’d shifted jobs in between times, taking advantage of our flexible labour market, left out, with no support, simply by a misfortune of timing.
“Last week the government extended the cut-off date to include anyone employed and on payrolls by 19 March, bringing more into the fold, though still not everyone.”
He also covered one of the basic points which people are still unclear on, that the scheme comes in the form of a grant and not a loan: ““The money firms receive to cover furloughing does not need repaying.
“The state will pay for 80 percent of a furloughed employee’s salary up to a maximum payout of £2,500 a month – plus the employers national insurance contribution and minimum pension contribution. “The only liability for employers is any holiday entitlement that accrues.”
There is apparently still some confusion about the rules for people working from home and if they qualify but, thankfully, Martin cleared up some of the ambiguity: “Some staff can be furloughed, while others keep working.
“The Treasury has confirmed to me, those unable to work as schools are closed and they need to be home to look after children, may be furloughed.
“If people are in the vulnerable category, so have to stay at home, and can’t work from home, they can be furloughed.”
When concluding his appearance, Martin pleaded once again with employers across the country to do the best thing for their employees: “Employers aren’t doing wrong by furloughing, they’re doing right.
“The government’s aim is to ‘protect financial victims of coronavirus’ and ‘enable firms and employees to quickly pick up where they were, once this all ends’.
“So, if employees need furloughing, employers should try to furlough them. To help, ACAS has produced templates employers can use to furlough staff.
“If only limited work hours are needed then it may be better to furlough some staff, and keep the others on full time, rather than halving everyone’s hours.”
The comments and tips put forward by Martin come from a new 12 point guidance plan that he has created.
Full details of this plan can be found on his website but they expand on the following elements:
- Furloughing means an employee’s job is put on standby.
- Any staff on the payroll up to 19 March can be furloughed
- It is a grant not a loan
- All core staff costs are covered
- Employers can top the furlough up to 100 percent of salary, but don’t need to
- Not all employees need to be furloughed
- Furloughing can be for as little as three weeks
- Employees who can’t work due to school closures can be furloughed
- Firms can furlough those shielding in line with public health guidelines
- Furloughing is better for employees than redundancy or unpaid leave
- Furloughing is better for most staff than cutting hours
- If staff left after 28 Feb for redundancy or a new job, they can be rehired and furloughed
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